Beyond Remote Work: Strategies for Retaining Your Superstars

It takes more than simply having a remote work setup to retain your best employees. Here’s how to ensure they receive the most satisfying employee experience.

A woman who works from home holds up her dog while on a video call.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It's a scenario familiar to most business owners. Everything appears to be progressing smoothly with your star performers, even the ones doing remote work, until suddenly it isn’t. The dreaded resignation letter appears or the unexpected request for an "important meeting" drops in your inbox. You're left puzzled. What happened?

One of the most potent contributors to this disheartening scenario is the lack of recognition. Consider these statistics from O.C. Tanner and oGoLead:

  • 79% of employees who quit their jobs cite a lack of appreciation as a major reason for leaving.
  • 65% of Americans claimed they weren't even recognized one time last year.
  • 82% of employees feel their supervisor doesn’t recognize their accomplishments.
  • 60% say they are more motivated by recognition than money.

The power of recognition

The potency of positive reinforcement can't be underestimated. Small gestures from upper management that acknowledge employees' contributions can propel them to step outside their comfort zones and drive business growth. Experts recommend that leaders praise in public and critique in private.

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Top performers in the remote workforce are often the first to jump ship when they feel unappreciated. This might become evident when previously passionate team members suddenly go silent on topics that fall within their specialties. When your best sales associate exhibits indifference between options of new sales tools, for example, it might signal a waning enthusiasm.

But it's not solely recognition from superiors that top performers crave. They also yearn for respect and acknowledgment from their peers, especially those less vocal "silent heroes" who prefer to wield influence without clamoring for attention. Addressing this issue can be challenging. Praise can sometimes feel forced, and the fear exists that it might create an expectation of recognition for every accomplishment. After all, there's only so much time in the day to monitor everyone’s progress and achievements. 

So, how do we ensure that our virtual team feels seen, heard and valued? By going back to the basics and making slight modifications to cater to the remote workforce. Here are four suggestions for how to do that.

Build a solid remote work culture and infrastructure

Embedding remote work into your corporate culture is vital to reduce attrition. Virtual Vocations pointed out in an article that clearly defined policies that affirm the company's commitment to flexible work options and address legal aspects lay the groundwork. 

Alongside these policies, optimizing the hiring process ensures that new hires are quickly aligned with the company’s procedures, culture and technical tools. From the initial definition of remote role requirements to implementing tools like applicant tracking systems and video interview platforms, streamlining remote hiring and onboarding is paramount.

Strong communication is just as essential for cohesion in a remote environment. Regular video meetings, project management tools and secure chat platforms must be evaluated and updated to keep the team connected. Alongside this, understanding generational differences is crucial for managing a diverse remote workforce. Offering a mix of remote and in-office options and accommodating various generational preferences can enhance employee satisfaction across the board.

Create a process to nurture and advance remote employees

As with traditional office environments, competitive pay and targeted benefits play a significant role in fostering job satisfaction. This includes factoring in elements such as home office allowances or membership to a co-working space for remote team members. At the root of it all, managing remote teams requires specialized leadership skills. That being said, targeted training on virtual leadership and remote team building equips leaders with essential competencies to drive remote teams effectively.

The prospect of career growth is also vital to retaining remote employees. Clear advancement pathways, regular feedback, access to training, mentorship and project opportunities make remote workers feel valued and considered for growth. Implementing strategies to measure and maintain engagement can also counter the insidious problem of “quiet quitting” among remote staff. This complete approach helps in ensuring that your virtual team remains motivated and committed to your organization's success.

Encourage peer recognition and collaboration

Peer recognition serves as a powerful tool to bolster relationships and engagement within remote teams. The importance of peer acknowledgment extends beyond those receiving praise, impacting the entire team's well-being. According to research by Psychology Today, acts of kindness, such as recognizing a co-worker, have been proven to increase neurochemicals like dopamine and serotonin in the brain. This biochemical reaction leads to reduced stress and increased trust and empathy, forging what can be termed a "happiness trifecta."

Initiating peer recognition in a remote setting can be as uncomplicated as sending a thank-you email or giving a shout-out during a virtual meeting. What makes peer recognition special is that it’s not confined to major achievements — even small, thoughtful gestures can make a significant impact.

To implement peer recognition effectively, various programs and initiatives can be adapted to the remote working environment. For example, creating a virtual "kudos board" using tools like Slack or Miro can transform an organization's internal communications into a platform for peer appreciation, encouraging employees to share their gratitude. However, it's crucial to understand that not everyone responds to public recognition, so explore options that allow for more private exchanges.

Other strategies include collaborative celebrations of milestones, integrating peer recognition into daily rituals and encouraging peers to build meaningful connections, such as ending the week by sharing how a teammate helped. In turn, this enhances the overall cohesion and morale of the virtual team.

Offer additional support for mental health

In addition to simply being available to support team members, employers should actively communicate their commitment to a healthier workplace by sharing resources tied to dealing with wellness on the job and mental health issues that can stem from burnout. For the sake of offering something for everyone, this information can be disseminated through various channels like infographics, monthly emails, videos and podcasts.

As a side note, leaders who openly discuss their own mental health struggles set a precedent for open and empathetic communication, normalizing the conversation.

A focus on healthy work-life balance is vital as well, which may involve guiding employees in setting boundaries, allowing mental health days, practicing asynchronous communication and creating social connections.

These strategies, however, cover only the tip of the iceberg. The ongoing task for leaders is to continually reassess and adapt these strategies to suit their organization’s needs and their employees' expectations.

All in all, merely offering remote work is not the panacea for employee retention. Recognition for their efforts is paramount to their job satisfaction and overall experience. Recognize, respect and reward your virtual talent, and they will not only stay but thrive.

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This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA.

Justin Grossbard
Co-Founder, and CEO, Innovate Online

Justin’s work has appeared in major publications including Entrepreneur, Finance Magnates and Money Show. Justin has expertise in trading, personal finance and digital marketing. He holds a Commerce degree with honours and Master's in Marketing from Monash University. Justin is the CEO of the digital agency Innovate Online, which he founded 11 years ago. The agency provides direct marketing solutions to some of the largest globally listed companies, and he also assists with small-business start-ups. Previously, he worked for one of the largest advertising agencies with listed financial institutions as clients from ANZ bank to NIB health insurance. He also worked in the UK as marketing manager for a health and safety firm and before that at Federal Highway Administration (VicRoads) in the finance division. He also co-founded the finance website Compare Forex Brokers, which publishes reviews about brokerages to help traders reduce trading fees. Within the US, the site focuses on helping traders select a CFTC-regulated broker based on spreads and trading software features.